The competition challenges researchers to adopt broad perspectives as they seek research-based solutions to a variety of problems with a wide impact. Simultaneously, companies are being challenged to recognise opportunities for radical innovations among the research results, innovations which would scale their operations to new heights. In the background lies the goal of scaling up Finland's innovation expertise.
“High-quality Finnish research has huge potential. We would definitely benefit from harnessing this in the business world. Cooperation with researchers opens up new ways of thinking for companies, increasing their ability to reinvent themselves and grow”, says Director Mirja Kaarlela.
Research organisations submitted 342 idea applications under different themes for the first phase of the Challenge Finland competition. A total of 90 applicants were granted funding for 70 projects. Challenges in need of solutions had been recognised in the theme areas of clean technologies, digitalisation and health in particular. The topics of the first-phase idea projects cover a wide range of sectors, from nano-pulp-based adaptable energy storage systems and wearable sensors to health monitoring or new means of improving cybersecurity.
Companies still have time to join
“Research organisations have already taken account of potential paying customers in their project proposals. Some have already named initial business partners, but more companies are needed in the consortia,” says Chief Adviser Jukka Leppälahti, commenting on the outcomes of the first application phase. “Many projects are based on a fresh understanding of the connection between a problem and its potential solution, not forgetting its relevance to corporate clients. Our expectations are high.”
The projects launched in the idea phase have six months to validate the problems and solutions they have recognised, develop their solutions further with companies and bring together powerful consortia for the commercialisation phase. Some projects may also discover that they need to change their approach, for example by looking in previously unplanned directions for potential paying customers or adjusting the project to better suit corporate R&D projects. Failure is also a part of innovation activities – sometimes the problem and the solution are not lucrative enough, and not even a change of direction helps. In such cases, it is necessary to know when to let go and direct one's efforts elsewhere,” says Leppälahti.
The ideas will be refined and consortia built until 14 November 2016. The best projects by the consortia will be accepted for the second competition phase: these projects will be implemented between 17 January 2017 and 31 October 2018.
Tekes has EUR 30 million of key project funding budgeted for the Challenge Finland projects. The first-phase idea projects were granted EUR 5.4 million of this sum.
Learn more about the idea projects!
The idea projects of the competition's first phase will be showcased to businesses in the early autumn in a project gallery on our website and in the Challenge Finland All Stars networking event on 21 September. Join us there!
Brief descriptions of the idea projects launched in the first competition phase are already available in Tekes's open data storehouse.
Challenge Finland kick off, Presentation of Jukka Leppälahti, 14 June 2016 (pdf)
Challenge Finland turns problems into business opportunities, blog of Jukka Leppälahti, 26 February 2016
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Tel. 029 50 55944
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Further information about the competition in Finnish: www.tekes.fi/challengefinland